You do not have to watch sports very long until you start hearing comparisons about who is the greatest. Whether it be Muhammad Ali and his speech about being the greatest or if you are comparing Tiger Woods to other golfers or Lebron James to Michael Jordan.
Books are written about being great and how to have great companies. Jesus answers the question to His disciples about how He views greatness.
Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?
When Jesus sent Peter out to fish and pay the taxes a discussion must have happened about why Peter was being called on by Jesus. The Disciples were not worried about what Jesus was teaching them as much as they were concerned at what rank would they have when Jesus established His kingdom. Just a short time earlier Jesus told about His death for a second time and they were distressed about the news but their minds quickly shifted back to themselves and what rank they would have in the Kingdom.
The way the question is worded shows that they expected Jesus to pick one of them to be the greatest. The Disciples were already taught to die to self but they missed what it meant to be humble. All of us have a tendency to focus on ourselves but this is something that Jesus was trying to change in them.
Matthew 16:24-25 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.
The question of who is the greatest shows the opposite of what Jesus just taught them. They were more concerned about their place and their status instead of meeting the needs of others. Most people care about Status, Power or Position and in their struggle to get all those things many people get hurt along the way.
This happens in many churches when people do not get put on a committee or leadership position and then they wonder why. Peoples true colors show when they do not get their way or when they do not get picked for a position.
This attitude of who is going to be the greatest continued all the way up to the cross of Christ by the disciples.
Luke 22:24-27 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
If you are more concerned about your position in leadership than you missed what Christ was teaching.
Let the oldest be like the youngest: doing the jobs that those in lesser positions should do. To many people think they are above certain jobs and in their arrogance think of themselves as better than others.
Let the Leader be the servant. The greatest is the one who makes themselves nothing.
And He called a Child
Jesus was good at using His surroundings to make a point. It was more than likely a child He was familiar with and when Jesus called the Child over the child immediately went to Jesus. It was at this point that Jesus taught them what it takes to make it into Heaven and what it takes to be His follower.
Enter the Kingdom of Heaven
Kingdom of Heaven: points to the ruler Himself who is God. It was another way of saying the Kingdom of God. This is a call to personal salvation an individual decision we all must make. Just like a child cannot earn their way into a house they are just brought into it, so are we brought into Heaven not by our works but we are carried in by our Savior.
The fact that someone has to enter the Kingdom of Heaven means they are outside of it.
That is a huge phrase by Jesus especially in a world that believes all will go to Heaven when they die. That statement alone teaches that all people go to Heaven is false.
Colossians 1:11-14 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks[d] to the Father, who has qualified you[e] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
The role of the disciples was to call people out of the Kingdom of Darkness (Satan) and into the Kingdom of God. This is our task today even though most people do not want to hear that they do not qualify to get into Heaven on their own.
Unless you turn and become like Children
The Child Jesus called was more than likely a toddler. One because they could talk but the word used meant very young child.
Child: Vulnerable, Trusting, Unambitious, and Dependent.
Your Children do not earn a spot in your house they are born into it or adopted into it. This is why Jesus used the phrase you must be born again. (John 3) Unearned, undeserved favor with God is the idea that Jesus is trying to get across.
Think of a Two Year Old: They do not earn their keep, they do not make life easier for you, and they cannot survive without you. This aspect of Christianity is what people have the most difficult time with because we live in a task oriented society that wants to earn their way into Heaven based on their works. Jesus has made it clear that there is nothing you can do to earn your way with Him He loves you because you are His child.
Turn: this is the sign of repentance meaning that you are going to stop living the way you are living.
Repentance is not just being sorry for your sin but a willing effort to stop doing it.
Acts 3:26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
This is a very important part that cannot be understated because so many people tell God they are sorry but they do not really mean it.
Whoever Humbles Himself is the Greatest
Jesus answers the question they asked about who is the greatest. If you want to be great in God’s eyes then humble yourself.
Humble: to make yourself low
If you are one that is trying to make yourself known or promote yourself then you are not being humble. To many people in Christian circles have bought into the lie that they have self promote themselves to make it in this world. God can place you wherever He wants and use you how every He sees fit and your responsibility is to trust and rely on Him every step of the way.
Matthew 23:11-12 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Many people have a problem with ministry in obscurity because they feel neglected or that no one appreciates all they do and then they quit. Our lives are to be lived in front of the King who sees all that we do. We are not to worry about if people notice or even care but to serve Jesus who does see all the things that we are doing and He will reward us for it.
Matthew 6:2-4 Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Self-Promotion is never allowed in God’s Kingdom.
Philippians 2:2-8 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
James 4:6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Pride is to unrighteousness what humility is to righteousness.
Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue and hands that shed innocent blood,18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
God mentions Haughty (arrogant) eyes with innocent blood (murder). Arrogant people do not realize they are arrogant. To be the greatest in God’s eyes is to make ourselves nothing. People should not even know we exist and we should not care if we get any credit here on earth only that we are doing the will of our Father in Heaven.